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The Blessing of Baby Jesus
Galatians 4: 4-7
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
There are several different ceremonies that the Jewish families participated in soon after the birth of a baby. The first one was Circumcision for a boy of eight days old. This symbolized the Jews separation from the Gentiles and the special relationship they had with God. The second ceremony was Redemption of the firstborn son, in this ceremony an offering was made to "redeem" the one-month-old child from God. This showed that the parents acknowledged that their son was from God and that He had the power to give life. The last ceremony was that of Purification of the mother. After giving birth to a child, a mother was said to be unclean and was not able to go to the temple for 40 days after the birth of a son and 80 days after the birth of a daughter. Once this time of purification was over, the parents were to take an offering to the priest at the temple. If the parents could afford a lamb, it was given as a sacrifice, if they couldn't afford a lamb two doves could be given as a sacrifice. Mary and Joseph gave two doves, which would signify that they didn't have very much money. They were careful to follow the law, even though Jesus was God's son. In these acts, the law was fulfilled and Jesus is shown not to be above the law.
In the Lutheran and Presbyterian churches today, we don't have the ceremonies of circumcision, redemption and purification. We do celebrate with the family when a child is born; we have the Rite of Baptism where we dedicate the life of the child to God, and promise to raise the child in the church. We are to bring that child to worship, Sunday School, Bible study and any other programs that will help the child to learn more about God and grow in their faith. We also promise God that our home will be a place to learn more about God and His love.
Most of the people thought that Jesus was sent only as the Messiah for the Jews, but Luke makes sure that the Greeks also knew that Jesus was sent as the Messiah for everyone who believes that He is our Savior. Even today over 2,000 years later, we learn in our studies of the Bible and in our worship, that Jesus came to die for our sins as well. We only have to accept the gift of His birth and death on the cross for all sins to be taken away. It's hard to believe that all we have to do to be forgiven is to open our hearts to Him and say thank you. It's a free gift and there is no way to earn it.
Do you struggle with the thought of this free gift? Sometimes I do. It is such an awesome gift that I feel that I need to earn it somehow. One of the gifts God has given me is the heart of a servant. I feel the most fulfilled when I reach out and care for others. For me to sit back and accept this amazing gift without doing anything does seem hard. In my private prayer time when I really block everything else out, I can feel His presence and His love. That is the time when I can feel it in my heart that I am His and He desires to have me with Him in paradise. There is a song, "I Can Only Imagine," that talks about when you first come into the presence of God when you go to heaven. It talks about what your reaction would be: would you bow in awe of Him or dance for Him. I'm not sure what I would do, but I can see either one happening. I know I look forward to being able to see Him face to face and finally get some of my questions answered.
Mary and Joseph were amazed at the meeting with Simeon. When they first came upon him at the Temple, he knew that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the one who was sent to save the entire world. He talked about Jesus causing the falling and rising of many in Israel, and about Mary feeling the sword pierce her own soul. Simeon was an old man who had studied in the Temple and knew the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. In his prayers, God had promised him that he would be able to see the Messiah before he died. When he saw Mary and Joseph bringing the baby Jesus to the Temple, the Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that this was the promised Messiah being brought to the Temple to fulfill the Law of the Lord.
The Prophetess Anna was also in the Temple at that time. After Anna had been widowed at a young age, she committed her life to the Lord. She too recognized that the baby Jesus was the promised Messiah. She also gave thanks to God for allowing her to see the Messiah and spoke about how Jesus would redeem the world.
Since Simeon and Anna were both elders in the congregation, the words they spoke were held with more authority. At that time, everyone looked to the elders for wisdom. Unfortunately, today we don't always look to our elders. Too often, we don't take time to listen to the stories of our elders. Our younger generations tend to think they know everything and can do better on their own.
I remember as a child spending a lot of time with my maternal Grandfather. My Grandmother had died in a car accident when my mother was pregnant with me. My parents were living in California at the time of the accident and moved back to Michigan to stay with my Grandfather as he recuperated from the accident. They ended up staying with him for 2 years. When Grandpa would come home from work, he would take me with him to visit his friends. I loved to visit them as I got older, and to hear all of their stories. Unfortunately, our children, ages 29 and 22, were not able to hear these stories from their grandparents. My mother has been gone for 29 years, Jim's dad for almost 23 years and my dad for 19 years. Jim and I try to tell them as many stories of the family as we can remember, but each year I know it becomes harder for me to remember them. It's important to share the stories and traditions with our children so they can also pass them on.
In the last verses we read, "39 When Jesus' parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. 40There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom beyond his years, and God placed his special favor upon him." Mary and Joseph would have taken Him to the Temple to learn and study as He grew up. As in James 1:5 "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." Jesus would have gained all of the wisdom that He needed through His daily walk and talk with God. We too are able to stay in close and regular contact with God through our prayers and our daily walk with Him.
Through the blessing of a little baby born in a stable, we have received the greatest gift of all.
©Jann Martin 2006